Recently I've been coaching a couple of clients on various writing projects. And I noticed that they all get stuck in the same place: wanting the first words they put on the page to be perfect.
Sorry to burst anyone's bubble here: that's not how it works. If you're lucky it might happen that way once in a while. But common wisdom among writers says "all writing is rewriting."
So be reassured if your words land on your computer screen or your notepad in less than perfect form the first time.
Be reassured if you spend hours adding, deleting and shuffling phrases, sentences and even whole paragraphs around your document and back again.
And be reassured if you're just plain frustrated because it takes longer than you thought to get across the mood and meaning you want.
Welcome to the writer's world!
For me there are 3 broadly-defined steps in the writing process.
Step 1 - Getting The Words Down On Paper
All you're doing here is putting information on paper.
Everything you know that might be relevant for the piece you're writing.
Every idea you have about your topic.
Every idea you have about your ideal client, how you can help them, the value they'll get from hiring you and why they'd choose you in the first place.
Write without censoring yourself. At this point, don't worry about grammar, punctuation or finding exactly the right word. That comes in Step 2. Keep writing until you have exhausted all the ideas you believe belong in your piece.
Don't worry if you end up with seven pages of information and you only need two.
You can go back and edit later.
Step 2 - Editing
Now it's time to review and refine the content.
What is absolutely necessary for your purpose?
What can be discarded?
Are the ideas organized logically?
Does it flow smoothly?
Does it connect with your audience and engage them?
Does your content precisely reflect the point you want to get across?
Where are there gaps in information?
Are you making assumptions about how much your ideal clients already know about your business and as a result you're losing their attention?
Are you using the right words? Not just any old words that say roughly what you want them to say, but the exact words that get your ideal clients excited about your product or service.
It can get squirmy when you're too close to the material to see what it really needs.
And it can feel like more than you want to deal with anyway.
At this stage, you can make it easy on yourself and hire an editor to give it its final shape. I've done that for many of my clients.
Step 3 - Proofreading
Here you're checking for consistency, spelling, punctuation, and the rules of grammar.
You can run it through a spell-checker to begin with but don't rely on the technology to pick up all that's wrong. "Through" and "threw" are both correct and the spell-checker won't recognize which one is appropriate for the context. In this case nothing beats a pair of human eyes.
Make sure that the company name is spelled correctly.
Are you using the same format for the phone number each time it appears?
Are periods and commas where they should be?
This is detail work. If this isn't your area of strength - and it's not for a lot of visionary business people - have a proof-reader cast their practiced eye over it. It'll be worth it to have your work look professional.
There you have it: those are the three steps I follow every time I write.
You can get yourself into trouble by trying to do all these steps at once. But go about it in a systematic manner and your content will come together much more easily.
Broken down like this, the process is simple. Yet each step involves nuances and can take many rewrites until your material is polished and you're satisfied that it presents you to your best advantage AND engages your audience.
Be patient with yourself. It'll pay off in higher quality writing with less effort.
Mark Twain is reputed to have said: "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter." That's the crux of the matter: it takes time and many rewrites to craft a focused piece that gets your message across with clarity, impact and no distractions.
Now it's your turn: take a look at whatever piece you're working on right now. Which of the above steps are you working on right now? Or are you trying to do them all at once?
Copyright 206 Maggie Dennison